There is nothing quite like a solid kick serve in the game of tennis. It is considered an excellent way to get an advantage when serving, but even amateur players can figure out ways to add a kick to their serve in a big way.
Below, we take a look at a few of the best steps to improve kick serves in tennis. With a weapon like this, players can take their game to the next level, holding serve with ease. Some of these steps might seem easier said than done, but it is worth putting in the extra effort.
When To Use a Kick Serve?
At the highest level, kick serves are almost always used as a second serve. The first one is flat and hard, looking for an ace or an easy set up for a second shot winner. While a good first serve and a lot of points, it is not always the highest percentage shot.
The kick serve is designed to be a consistent second serve. Instead of hitting a flat ball, there is a good amount of spin on the serve so that it can have higher net clearance. The ball actually spins back into the court, and then kicks off the ground to cause the opponent problems.
Some kick serves will kick straight up, while others will have spin one way or the other. There is no set way to have a good kick serve, as most people go with whatever feels most natural.
How To Improve Kick Serve & Turn It Into a Weapon
Some of these tips are easy to learn, but hard to master. Others are a little bit tricky, but when people get things down just right, they can feel so much more confident. A lot of the keys to serving a first or second serve is confidence, and that usually means plenty of reps to get to that point.
1. Grip The Racquet Correctly
A person has the choice of using one or two different grips that will help with hitting a consistent kick serve. Beginners usually like to stick with a continental grip, and it is flexible enough for people to hit with a decent amount of kick while keeping the ball in the service box.
Advanced players might have more success with an eastern backhand grip, as it does a good job of forcing a player to relax at the right times, and accelerate the forearm and wrist. This is where people are going to generate their spin and have success.
Experiment with both grips and see which one feels more comfortable. Most players graduate from the continental grip to the eastern backhand grip as time goes on, but it really comes down to what feels the best overall. You can read more about how to choose the right grip, in this post.
2. Tossing The Ball The Right Way
A first serve involves a player tossing the ball in the front of their body. By hitting the ball at the peak of a toss, it gives players the biggest margin of error overall. That changes with the kick serve, as the toss needs to be more behind the head to get that extra bit of spin. Not only that, but hitting the ball when it is still on its way up is a key as well.
It does not need to be so pronounced that an opponent knows what other players are doing right away, but it is a very subtle change in the toss. No one is going to hit the ball the exact same as the next player, so find something that works and improve consistency.
Players can even mess with whether they want the ball more to the left or the right, depending on what type of side spin they want on their kick serve. Most people will find it more comfortable to toss the ball to the opposite side of their serve hand if they do show a preference.
3. Hiding The Kick Serve
If a player gives their opposition a sign that they are hitting a particular serve, they lose quite a bit of advantage. It is frustrating for any players out there when this happens. To hide what type of serve is hit, make the two look as similar as possible.
Not only does it help with masking the serve, but it helps with consistency as well. It is impossible to get both serves to look exactly the same, but they should be pretty similar from the beginning of a toss to right about when a person makes contact. An opponent will not be able to see if the ball is tossed slightly behind the head, and by the time a player make contact, it is tough for them to read the serve too much.
Tennis is different from a sport like baseball, where pitchers need to hide their different pitches as much as possible. For the most part, tennis players know that the first serve is going to be harder than the second, and the second is going to have more spin. However, keeping them on their toes and making the serve look similar will be beneficial.
4. Make The Forearm Go Back Initially, And Then Pronate
A player needs to develop a fluid motion when hitting a kick serve. One common flaw in a lot of forms is not properly dropping the forehand back enough to generate speed and spin. It needs to drop in the middle of the motion, because adding another stop to the serve is going to be problematic.
The forearm is also important during the second part of the stroke, as a player needs to pronate the forearm as they prepare to make contact. Dropping the forearm creates a great opportunity to hit the ball with a lot more speed and spin, but the forearm must pronate so that the ball is hit right on the sweet spot. This creates a little bit of an uncomfortable twisting motion for some people, but it is one of the primary keys to a kick serve.
5. Keep Racquet Speed The Same
A kick serve is not going to be moving as quickly as a first serve, but that does not mean the racquet speed needs to lower at all. It is just a different way of swinging the racquet, and hitting through the ball is essential to make sure that there is a decent amount of pace on the ball.
The difference is where the ball is actually making contact with the racquet itself. A player is attempting to brush up the back of the ball when hit, and adding that spin helps keep the ball in.
6. Brush Up & Out On Contact
As briefly mentioned above, brushing up on the ball is crucial for a successful kick serve. People tend to hold back a little bit when they are hitting a kick serve, mostly because they don’t want to overhit things. If everyone has the right form and technique, it is perfectly fine to take a full swing at a serve and trusting the process. The way it still stays in is that a player is capable of brushing up on the ball, and out.
Catching the ball at an angle starts the entire process off. Since most players are making contact before it reaches the peak, it makes brushing up a little more comfortable as well. Making sure to accentuate the out part of the swing, especially early on, will help people get muscle memory down.
7. Keep The Body Sideways
Another habit that a lot of people start to run into early on with kick serves is opening up their hips and torso a little too early. That is going to spray the ball all over the place, and kill consistency overall. Keep the body sideways and in a fairly locked in position during the toss, as that will help with control considerably.
Hold off on opening up until the serve is finished, and the next step is moving into the court. If player’s get the biomechanics down, they finish in an athletic stand that allows for easy movement anywhere on the court.
How To Put It All Together?
These tips are great, but the best way to improve a kick serve is to utilize them and practice as much as possible. Practicing a serve is one of the easiest ways for players to get better, because they don’t even need A partner to practice. Instead, all it takes is a bucket of balls and a court to practice first and second service.
Ideally, players want to build up the kick serve so that they can hit it with a very high percentage every single time. Whether it’s at the beginning or end of a session, take a little bit of extra time to practice serves.